Memoir of a South African Girl: A Silent Conversation with my Ma by Ntsieni Tshidi Mathalise

“I miss her.”

I remember getting back home early evening and my mom said, “Tshidi, where have you been, which boys have you been with?  You better not come back to this house pregnant without a dowry.” It’s funny, because I think parents forget that their children are human sometimes. They see children as a way to do themselves over again. They forget to teach children the right ways and will often know too well how to say not to do the wrong things.  I understood my mom though her she thought her silence was invisible. I always sensed everything she was saying verbally and everything she didn’t say verbally. I sensed her fear, but even more, I felt it. Her fear used to diffuse itself through the air and enter through my pores and like a dandelion that one would blow and make a wish; her fear floated and used to land itself with my soul. Her fear spoke to me silently: “I remember the first time we brought you home. Your forehead was so big but your smile was the most beautiful I had ever seen. It had the power to heal my broken soul and believe that I deserved to be a mother–your mother. Your papa and I adopted you, we kept many secrets from you, but you were our pride and joy. We named you Matshidiso, which means bringer of joy and happiness. That’s what you did for us, my baby. I carried you on my back when I had to go to work. I would have to iron people’s clothes and scrub floors and sweat till it came pouring down, but I carried you so that you won’t have to walk that road. I don’t want you falling pregnant at this age because you still have your whole life. Your pa and I sing our stupid song of how we want you to be a doctor, but we know that’s not your path my baby. We just want you to know that whatever dream you have, we believe in you and you will succeed. You finish high school in two days and then you’re going to face the real world. The world that has already determined your future from the melanin of your skin. Please know that the world does not write your destiny, you write your destiny and make your own choices. I am sorry your pa and I can’t send you to University, but know that we believe in you Tshidi. You are my joy, my baby, you are my joy, and I would scrub as many floors as I need to, to have you not walk this path. “Gently the dandelion of her fear lifted and seeped back out of my pores and back to her. Her eyes were filled with so much pain, sadness, worry, but love always managed to surface through. I looked at her and said, “I love you, Ma, and you don’t have to worry. You raised me well.”  I miss her.